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August 10, 2009

Purging, Planning, and the Common Denominator: Welcome to a New School Year!

By Stacey Burt
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    This summer I re-read Todd Whitaker's book, What Great Teachers Do Differently: Fourteen Things That Matter Most. I love this book, highly recommend it, and have read it countless times. It reminds me that no matter what is going on in the classroom, there is one common denominator, the teacher.  Whitaker reminds the reader of the importance of setting high expectations for students, being flexible to change, knowing ourselves, and most importantly, knowing our students. It is this last point that I would like to spend a little time on.

    Enter Ian Lockwood, a bright-eyed student that sat in the front of my 5th grade science class six years ago eager and full of questions.  By far, one of the most intelligent students I have ever taught. About nine days ago I received a message from Ian's mom requesting that I contact him; he wanted to speak with me. Seven hours away, Ian (now 16) had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, had undergone surgery to remove most of the tumor in his right frontal lobe, and was slated to begin radiation and chemotherapy in the coming weeks. He had asked that a few former teachers be notified and I was among them.

    This past weekend I drove from Nashville to Navarre, Florida, for a visit. During the drive I reflected on the year I spent with Ian and how had I never allowed the extra time getting to know him I may have never found out that he wanted to be a neurologist, never been able to provide some comfort for him during this difficult time, and I would definitely have never developed a bond that would span six years and three states.

    Thank you for reading this week's blog. I promise to keep it lighter with images and ideas for classroom organization next Tuesday. Have a great week and I hope you check in often.

    This summer I re-read Todd Whitaker's book, What Great Teachers Do Differently: Fourteen Things That Matter Most. I love this book, highly recommend it, and have read it countless times. It reminds me that no matter what is going on in the classroom, there is one common denominator, the teacher.  Whitaker reminds the reader of the importance of setting high expectations for students, being flexible to change, knowing ourselves, and most importantly, knowing our students. It is this last point that I would like to spend a little time on.

    Enter Ian Lockwood, a bright-eyed student that sat in the front of my 5th grade science class six years ago eager and full of questions.  By far, one of the most intelligent students I have ever taught. About nine days ago I received a message from Ian's mom requesting that I contact him; he wanted to speak with me. Seven hours away, Ian (now 16) had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, had undergone surgery to remove most of the tumor in his right frontal lobe, and was slated to begin radiation and chemotherapy in the coming weeks. He had asked that a few former teachers be notified and I was among them.

    This past weekend I drove from Nashville to Navarre, Florida, for a visit. During the drive I reflected on the year I spent with Ian and how had I never allowed the extra time getting to know him I may have never found out that he wanted to be a neurologist, never been able to provide some comfort for him during this difficult time, and I would definitely have never developed a bond that would span six years and three states.

    Thank you for reading this week's blog. I promise to keep it lighter with images and ideas for classroom organization next Tuesday. Have a great week and I hope you check in often.

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